The first news of NHL 21 has finally arrived.
EA has been pretty quiet about their hockey title, but now the game is confirmed and on its way.
Which is only a benefit for players.
Focus on gameplay
In a development update, EA spoke about the difficulties of developing a game in 2020.
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Coronavirus pushed development into workers homes and clearly disrupted everything EA had planned for its major titles.
Madden, FIFA, and NHL are all launching later in 2020 than they did in 2019.
As a result it seems like a compromise has been made within NHL 21, to focus on features and gameplay this year, rather than developing for next-gen capability.
It's a smart decision.
Features vs headlines
The first thing players learned about Madden 21 was that it was Optimized for Series X.
Revealed by Patrick Mahomes on the Inside Xbox stream in May, a brief look at Madden 21 showed off flashy graphics and made a big splash about being set up for next-gen.
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This won't happen with NHL 21.
"For NHL 21, we made the decision to focus on adding innovation and new features rather than the resource-heavy task of porting the game to new console technology."
For fans of annual sports games it is refreshing and encouraging to hear that kind of statement.
All too often games chase splashy headlines rather than focusing on features, gameplay, and innovation.
That road leads to fans abandoning the series, skipping games, and a lot of vocal frustration. NHL instead is focusing on giving players a reason to buy the next game, while not overstretching themselves to make PS5 & Xbox Series X versions.
So what about PS5 & Xbox Series X?
Fans shouldn't worry about moving to next-gen.
NHL 21 will be playable on the new consoles, it just won't be built specifically for them.
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While NBA 2K21 has gone after the next-gen market with a purpose-built (and more expensive) next-gen version of the game, NHL is looking after its core audience.
By focusing on gameplay and leaving the massive task of next-gen gameplay for next year, NHL players should get the best of both world over NHL 21 & 22.
NHL 21 should be a great game with new innovations that are lacking in Madden (and possibly FIFA) this year. While NHL 22 will be fully capable for next-gen and can learn from the errors of others.